Tickets are now on sale for the Wharton Center's 2023-'24 Broadway season, which begins on Tuesday, Oct. 3. Six Broadway productions, including musicals and a play will come to Michigan State University’s campus.
"To Kill a Mockingbird," Oct. 3-8
The season will open with Aaron Sorkin’s play adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird." The classic story follows a lawyer fighting to maintain the innocence of a Black man wrongly accused of rape in Alabama in the 1930s.
Wharton Center Director Eric Olmscheid said many people have a strong connection to this story because of its important themes, which explore "race relations in America and the legal system" — and because many read the novel in grade school.
Sorkin’s adaptation of the novel is “set in today’s appetite of theater,” he said, making it relevant for current times without changing the setting or significance of the original story.
"To Kill a Mockingbird" deviates from the norm as the sixth play the Wharton Center has hosted, the last being "Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime" in 2017.
"Hairspray," Nov. 28 to Dec. 3
Last performed at the Wharton Center in 2005, "Hairspray," a musical directed by Jack O’Brien and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, is making its return to East Lansing. Set in 1960s Baltimore, Hairspray follows teenage Tracy Turnblad as she strives for fame as a dancer on the "Corny Collins Show," where she advocates for desegregation of the program.
Olmscheid said "Hairspray" is an “uplifting and inspiring” production.
“It is a beautiful story of being true to yourself, forging your path and making the world a better place than you found it,” he said.
Hairspray features several hit songs including, "Welcome to the ‘60’s," "Good Morning Baltimore" and "You Can’t Stop the Beat."
"Mamma Mia!" Jan. 16-24, 2024
The jukebox musical is back in East Lansing for the sixth time in honor of its 25th anniversary tour. "Mamma Mia!" is set in Greece to tell the story of a daughter attempting to connect with her real father, told through the music of ABBA.
The 25th anniversary of "Mamma Mia!" is produced by the original creatives behind the musical, director Phyllida Lloyd and choreographer Anthony Van Laast.
"It is the same great story, featuring the amazing music by ABBA," Olmscheid said. Classic songs including "Dancing Queen," "Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)" and "Slipping Through My Fingers" help tell the tale.
"Funny Girl," Feb. 6-11, 2024
"Funny Girl," made by Isobel Lennart, is based on the story of Fanny Brice, a girl from lower Manhattan who, despite being told that she will not succeed in the industry, becomes one of the greatest icons within musical theater.
Songs "Don’t Rain on my Parade," "I’m the Greatest Star" and "People" are featured in the musical.
“Many people know these songs, but they don't know where they come from. And they come from Funny Girl,” Olmscheild said. “It's really, really a wonderful production currently playing on Broadway right now.”
"Moulin Rouge! The Musical," April 2-14, 2024
"Moulin Rouge!" is a jukebox musical written by John Logan, based on the 2001 film. It follows a composer who falls in love with a cabaret actress in the 20th century.
Moulin Rouge will be showing 16 performances at the Wharton Center over the span of two weeks.
“Moulin Rouge is just a really fun, lavish production,” Olmscheild said.
"Six: The Musical," May 14-19, 2024.
The Wharton Center will close its Broadway season with "Six," the story of which one of Henry VIII's wives had it the worst, as told through a pop concert battle written by Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow.
When coordinating the Broadway shows, Olmscheid said the intersection of the student community and the greater Lansing community was a large consideration.
“Part of the challenge, and the opportunity for us, to build each season is to be reflective of what our community wants and needs, and will connect with what will resonate with our community,” he said.
The Wharton Center’s Broadway Series Package includes tickets to all shows besides "Mama Mia!" for $215 and is on sale beginning Monday, April 10. Tickets for individual shows will be released during the summer, according to Olmscheid.
“These six musicals represent 50 Different Tony Award nominations and 21 Tony Award wins," he said. "It's a highly acclaimed season, a lot of great content that we'll be having here as part of our Broadway series."